Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hotel Rooms

The highlight of the Folger symposium for me was the earnest grad student who very earnestly suggested that I might want to get in touch with Bonnie Gordon because my project sounded so similar to hers. She was pretty sure Professor Gordon would be accessible on email. (She obviously had not seen the inbox with at least ten unanswered student emails in it) There is something refreshing about being at a conference for another discipline and being largely anonymous. Only twice did I have the urge to jump up and down and say “hey I’m a tenured professor too………” I forgot how much I love the Folger—it was a real haven for me in graduate school.

But the real highlight remains of course the large and lovely hotel room alone which seemed delicious enough that I dodged dinner invitations last night. The morning Eli and I left for our great adventure on the train did wonders for making the solo morning seem even better. See below for the short version of thurs morn in dialogue.

Eli I’m goin on the twain twan twain (in a song) I’m gonna stay with Joyce and Papa all by myself.

Jonathan omg I can’t take it I’m going to die. Kick kick scream scream. I can not go to school today I am too devastated.

Rebecca Mooooommmmy get me dressed. I have nothing to wear. You promised I could have another playdate with Haley. I will not practice the piano with anyone but you.

Eli I’m going on the twain twain twain. I got my chocolate milk in my packbak

J Noooooooo this is the wrong brand of cheerios…….

R Mooooommy Jonathan is tamtruming too much. We need to take him back to his therapist. (She means occupational therapist)

Me Jonathan I am putting you in your Tupperware until you turn 7. Rebecca you have a closet full of clothes put something on the law says you can’t go to school naked. Eli stop talking now.

Pause for three seconds

All quietly eating the wrong brand of cheerios. Rebecca is getting dressed. Jonathan is reading.

Eli Jonathan is reading to me………

Are all children bipolar/?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Twains and Hotels

Tomorrow night I will be in a hotel room in Washington DC ALL BY MYSELF. To be sure I look forward to an intense few days of talking about theater and space in early modern Europe at the Folger. But there is nothing better to a mother of small children than a hotel room with a bathtub, a tv and a nice cozy bed. The room does tend to need the trusty “Mommy’s first Hanukah” flask and chocolate. Before the hotel Eli and I are taking the “twain” together and he will stay with Joyce and papa all by himself after “mommy stays and chats a while” He also plans to get a hair cut, go to a "restawant", play fire trucks and do some fighting games with Papa.

The Last time I braved the train with the children alone was during the winter holidays. The highpoint was Rebecca asking every African American person if they observed Kwanza, which she had just learned about in school. Jonathan then informed the people on the train who by then were wondering who had let me reproduce that “we don’t celebrate Christmas because we do not believe that Jesus Christ is our savior” In theory Halloween ought to cause us less problems. Manuel and the big kids have a handout that ought to get them through my absence and the gemelli look forward to being in charge of Daddy. Apparently if they see the words homework and practicing written down they actually do it as opposed to when I’m here and it involves titillating dialogue like “no the violin bow is not a sword” “yes playing the star wars theme on the piano is a sign of genius but please play your five finger patterns,” and no neither dim wit nor butt are first grade site words. Last nights round of dim wit and butt following on the heels of advising ten undergrads most of whom want to go to the useless comm. school pushed me to stuff the boys in front of the History channel and plunk myself in a bubble bath with Ann Sexton poetry. Manuel came home with Rebecca to this scene and busted out laughing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

good twin bad twin

Rebecca and Jonathan have been perfecting the good twin bad twin performance since the womb. This involves one twin acting like Satan’s love child and the other performing perfect kid. Tonight’s iteration of this old pattern involved a 47 minutes tantrum from Jonathan about not wanting to eat dinner; it featured kicking, enraged screaming and pathetic tears which are always particularly dramatic on an underweight kid. “No one understands my pain,” “I just can’t resist kicking” And the trump card of “you know mommy I have a sore throat, head ache, muscle ache and stomach ache and must have the H1N1 flu” This prompted Rebecca to very aggressively eat her roast chicken “it’s the best chicken ever” She even ostentatiously sampled steamed mustard greens. “Aren’t I being helpful by eating new foods and cleaning the table” “Do you think we need to take Jonathan back to the feeding Therapist” “Don’t you think we’re a little old for this sort of behavior…..” I was not in the best place for this little performance having spent the entire day attempting to write a grant proposal that is due in a week. My new approach involves leaving myself exactly a week to get things done; as it turns out bibliographic control of Thomas Jefferson may take longer than that. Thankfully I have very smart friends and at least three of them wrote me sentences today. I’m assuming this counts as collaboration not honor code violation. And if anyone can think of a way to talk about fiddling that doesn’t end up sounding obscene that would be helpful as well. TJ is taken very seriously down here.

I set my running watch to clock the amount of time I spent dealing with work email and at 63 minutes I am still not caught up. This does not include any of the fun stuff like snide remarks to friends and family, or attempting to figure out exactly what time on Weds four women with 9 children between them and multiple jobs can run. We’ve settled I believe on 8:35 at last check. My husband finds these efforts worthwhile as he sees running as key to my sanity and thus his—he said this weekend he lives in fear of a knee injury for me.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Darth Duckie Big Books and Gravity

My mom’s high school friend asked why I would write on a blog if I have no time. It gets ten minutes and it counts as writing warm up. No book this week thanks to an entire week in special collections. That I only figured out I had to do this talk a week ago turns out to have been a good thing. My favorite moment involved the 15th century choirbook. The special collections librarian and I had to crawl under the table to place it in the middle of the floor so all could see it. Since I regularly stand on the table to turn on the projector in the music seminar room I’m used to undignified postures.
In addition to working on this talk this week inaugurated the 10 days of Halloween which features in our house Darth Duckie, Cleopatra, and Blue Jedi. Thankfully Clopatras head dress covered up the fact that her hair had not been washed for a week. She has ordered up a lite saber too and is apparently not plagued by the allergy to anachronism that prompts her twin to go nuts when I strategically places batman in a cage in his play mobile coliseum.
Darth Duckie was utterly fearsome at the school costume party at Barnes and Noble until he saw anyone with a mask on and dissolved into a blood curdling “Someone is trying to kill me scream” and insisted on being carried with head buried in my shoulder and lite saber in my purse. Darth Duckie also doubles as a rock star and after a rousing round of This Land is Your Land complete with guitar slapping and rock star gyrating informed us that he does not sing We shall Overcome because “that’s for girls” (another victory for feminism)
Darth Dukie’s operatic demise was followed for me by an undergraduate Opera Gala in which our industrious and talented singers managed to stage about five opera scenes and got over 50 people to spend $70 a plate for the event. (My colleague and I got comp tickets) The nice Wagnerian soprano who has sung at Bayreuth wanted to know which of the students singing “is yours” We claimed the one that would be genetially impossible, the six foot tall blond one.
In addition to being totally blown away by their talent and indusriousness I was fascinated by the undergraduate boob. They all had on amazing dresses with very little fabric across the chest and no room from bras. Their boobs stood strait out. Anyone who has nursed understands that twenty something boobs defy gravity but they also provide insulation. By the end of the evening I had on my dress, my sweater, a scarf and my colleague’s suit jacket and was still cold enough that my fingers started to turn white at the tips. The undergrads were not cold.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kid sized Tupperward

My friend Liz tells me I can become the richest Tupperware lady on the block if I market my elementary school sized bin. I use the bin to put Jonathan in when he starts warming up for a tantrum. It is big enough that his little head sticks out the top and he can stretch out. It stops everyone in their tracks and he starts to laugh. If you want such a bin you merely have to order grocery delivery from Charlottesville’s new amazing retail relay which can bring organic vegetables, Trader Joe’s brownie mix and a child container. They do not yet have a bin large enough for husbands. Rebecca meanwhile continues on her search for a “real” magic set. She remains extremely disappointed that the one she received as a gift does not allow her to turn her brother into a rabbit. She knows that with the proper props and outfits this can be done and has been working sort of obsessively on acquiring thing to get the job done. She seems to have missed the memo that people like Kircehr started sending out in the seventeenth century which explained that magic involves TRICKS. My showing her pictures of 17th century illustrations of such tricks did nothing to ease her pain.

In other news my undergrads gave me a disdainful scoff when I admitted I was not familiar with Beyonce’s “single girls” This followed somehow from a discussion of timbre in performances of Schuman’s Frauenliebe und Leben” (A 19th century male fantasy of a woman’s life) They seemed to think that Beyonce enacts the modern version—not sure how Clara would feel about that. The fact that in preparation for my talk on Friday I have acquainted myself with the delightfully boring music of Campioni seemed not to impress them. They were equally unmoved by my delight over Thomas Morley’s part book format musical examples.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Light saber two arrived today. Nothing warms the heart of a feminist mother like seeing her two sons duke it out with large plastic weapons. It’s especially becoming on a three year old who is shorter than the phallus itself. Of course his older brother recognized talent in the blood. “Eli I wish to train you in the jedi arts……” The little Jedi punctuated their training duel with a rousing chorus of “Go down light sava way down in Egypt land tell old phawo wet my people go…..”

Meanwhile Rebecca’s piano teacher had the very sweet idea that she and I should play a duet at her recital. La princepesa tends in our “rehearsals” to channel a cross between the yelling Cuban piano teacher I had as a child and the scowling Israeli viola teacher I had in College—both of whom specialized in thug pedagogy. Imperious does not begin to describe the tone of ,” MOMMY ONE TWO THREE FOUR”

Jedi 1 and 2 and their commanding sister seemed to be smoothly in bed by 8 allowing me to work on my talk for Friday. The talk goes down on record for me as the first academic gig I’ve negotiated by Facebook chat. I was so happily thinking about Kircher’s pictures of echoes and trying to figure out what Thomas Jefferson was doing in a pleasure garden in London that I didn’t notice Rebecca sneak by my little study nook. Luckily super Dad was on the ball and after finding her empty bed located her in our bathtub with a pile of cotton balls, Q-tips, a pad, crayons, lipstick, and a silk scarf. She claimed she was doing NOTHING DADDY. Back to Kircher, Thomas Jefferson and The Castrato.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

calculators and spread sheets

Yesterday required a calculator and a spread sheet: road race for the oldest boy, soccer for the middle boy, art for the girl, gymnastics for the girl, birthday party for gemelli, one twin out for slumber party, other twin picks up another six year old boy to replace missing sister, oldest boy out for... man birthday party with lots of scotch, extra set of twins in and out for the day, littlest boy being three yikes!!!!!!!!!!

Remarkably by 9:00 pm Rebecca had gone of to her slumber party with sub zero sleeping bag and pink hello kitty hair brush in tow. (Her parting words were, "ok guys you need to hold it together while I’m gone”) Manuel was ensconced in a bar with his man friends and the boys were all asleep having eaten very blue cake and watched the classic Batman meets Scooby doo. The guest refused to sleep in Rebecca’s bed claiming it was too girly for him. My suggestion that his sleeping bag might mitigate the potential gender bending was met with scoff worthy of a teenage girl. The young man was not too manly to agree with Jonathan that soccer games are better than practices because “we can feel the breeze moving freely through our hair....” This warm fuzzy feeling about the breeze suggests that our kid, despite his facility with a Light Saber, does not have the killer instinct on the field. He scored two goals yesterday thanks to a coach who I’ve already decided without meeting that I love. Jonathan explained that his goals were scored “with the assistance of another player, Santiago. Santiago is the coaches son and his Dad told him that if he passed the ball to me and I scored he would get a piece of chocolate”

The shocking smoothness of the evening allowed me to think about my surprise appearance on Friday as part of a series about primary sources. I’m feeling a little ambivalent about primary sources these days since the between the complicated schedules of the offspring, the students, and the committees I don’t actually encounter them frequently enough and am pondering projects centered on google and youtube. Last week’s intimate encounter with one involved a gross misreading. Let’s just say that when you’re really hungry and fantasizing about dinner it’s best not to spend too much time trying to figure out why in the middle of the seventeenth century the Pope would hold up a fish in a procession. No it’s not a bizarre twist on fertility rite which would have been clearer had I not read the word spada as fish instead of sword. To be fair the fact that the stage machines also involved boobs that spit out wine did get me thinking about fertility and my three days of research on such rites in 17th century Rome were certainly interesting—just totally irrelevant for my own project.

Friday, October 16, 2009

21 Reasons why the book is not done

This is from an email I wrote to some friends almost two years ago in which I simply started jotting down the things standing between me and productivity. I was on leave at the time.

1. Spent hours fretting about how to replace two babysitters, who are going on spring break next week (which I forgot about because I’m not teaching) while my husband is out of town. Note: we love these sitters, but no one shared their upcoming travel plans until now.

2. Tried to figure out where, on one week’s notice to have a birthday party for our five- year-old twins and their preschool class of fifteen. The only requirement is that it must involve minimal effort from me and satisfy their passion for weapons, yoga, princesses, knights and Pharaoh. Preferably, this should not involve small choking hazards, like Batman’s head, which my 18-month-old ingested this morning. I emailed all possible sources about this crucial matter hoping to gain at least bibliographic control.

3. Spent 40 minutes offering advice on sleep training a baby to the wife of a colleague from another department who had an unfortunate encounter with another wife is now desperate enough that even when I said I was really trying to work while my sleep trained baby was napping she begged me to chat.

4. Explained to at least four bewildered first-year students that I have no idea of the whereabouts of the political science colleague whose office is next to mine, and that I would not know how to find him even in the event of a natural disaster.

5. Tried to figure out how not to spend the kids’ college savings on dried mangoes without any sugar added to them. Couldn’t the feeding therapist have introduced dried apricots or raisins?

6. Became obsessed with trying to remember the source in which Bertolt
Brecht claimed that he and Gallileo were spiritually connected. I found a nice quotation in a German book, and after fighting with the translation for a while decided I didn’t like either guy very much.

7. At husband’s request, wrote an email to the pediatrician asking if we have to worry about the aforementioned Batman’s-head-ingesting incident. I explained that the head has not emerged, as best I can tell, but I’m pretty sure he chewed it up since I saw little pieces emerging from the sides of his mouth. The Doctor has not yet replied. I also spent some time trying to replace batman so that the older son will not figure out that younger son ate the prized possession.

8. Read and wrote over ten short emails about job candidates in Persian and women’s studies. I write on the Italian Renaissance and the unfinished book is on castrati so neither search helped my general productivity. Luckily a nice colleague took care of most thinking about the latter so I had only to read. Leave is apparently a flexible concept on a campus without enough female faculty.

9. For an article tried to figure out what music Marlene Dietrich played on the piano in the movie where she encoded messages from Russian enemies in a score. First I had to remember the movie’s name—this involved too much time with Google; my new favorite research tool.

12. Debated the worth of sneaking into the grad student office to heat my soup up in the microwave against the risk of encountering the lurking grad student whose email I was pretending I hadn’t gotten. I ate the soup cold.

13. Put off writing three letters of recommendation for students from my old job but did waste some time looking for old letters, most of which seem to have gotten lost in the move. One is for a fellowship in media literacy, which I think means listening to NPR.

14. Unpacked one of the ten boxes of files in my office, which I moved into eight months ago. I was hoping to find folders from my last research trip to Rome, since the Pope has now closed his holy library and I need to revamp my entire research agenda—no luck on the folder. I did find one fabulous picture of a castration from a 16th-century medical book. I also found some cute postcards with which to decorate my office walls. My office is in a trailer in my husband’s parking lot--embodying my status as spousal hire, and the walls are great for hanging since they take pushpins so well. I resisted looking on ebay for Elvis posters.

14. Spent way too much time on Craig’s List Rome attempting to find an apartment for less than my annual salary that can accommodate, me, three kids, my husband, and my mother who will be my co-parent when my husband goes back to work. No luck.

15. Despite serious feminist theory chops including, an apparently useless graduate certificate in women’s studies, I failed to explain to my daughter why the Barbie her father bought her at Goodwill will lead to her ultimate demise. Luckily my son explained that Barbie is “sexist” and really “not good for women”

16. Attempted, twice, to gain cosmic points for calling my grandparents on the phone. I failed twice: first because they didn’t want their dinner to get cold, and the second time because they were watching the presidential debate and told me I should be watching it too.

17. Tried to back up documents, since good friend lost all of hers. I realized that, in fact, the days when you accomplish nothing are the hardest to replace should my ancient sputtering lap tap with keyboard that can not type w’s or s’s chose to die—I failed after 20 minutes of fighting with mean computer and at a low point called it a tootie butt.

19. Laughed, when my husband responded to my conclusion (after countless phone calls to venues and emails to noted experts) that the only solution to above mentioned birthday-party conundrum was to have it at our house with a rousing “Let’s do it.”

20. Allowed husband to redeem himself by successfully backing up precious documents for me while I watched TV. He has also started plans for buying me a new computer which will allow me to email and back up at the same time.

21. Spent five minutes writing the first eight items on this list and a few seconds every time something else ridiculous came up. This, I believe, means two fewer pages in my book for the year.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Three Year Old From Hell

I should know by now that when my chair jumps three feet in the air it’s not an earthquake but is an SUV crashing into my trailer. I’ve been in more car accidents sitting at my desk than most people have in their life time. And I should know that it’s going to be a long day when I get to my office, look at the poster that’s been on the wall for a month and realize that it says I’m giving a talk in a week—oops. This moment of truth would have been easier swallow had it not been the morning after the attack of the three year old in desperate need of a light saber. Mom if you’re reading this let’s not ever send one lightsabrer to the house; clearly we need at least two if not three of all divine weapons. Jonathan’s new “holy grail” prompted my previously very sweet three year old—the one who wakes up singing and smiling spent most of the afternoon face down on the filthy kitchen floor screaming "I need a puple litesaba to shoot down the dawk side....." I’m pretty sure Anakin was out of diapers and could say R’s before he got a lightsaber …Jonathan was meanwhile huddled in the corner crying about Eli ruining his litesaber and hitting him--yes the big brother is starting to get beat up by the little brother. I give il picolino an A for sophisticated drama and vocabulary and for pushing his close enough to the edge that when Manuel arrived home to three screaming kids and asked me why I was sticking my tongue out at Eli. I actually responded "he started it...... " This may explain why at the talk I went to about Kant last night every time a nice French guy I was talking to lapsed into French I responded in Italian……And it may explain why the plan to come home after said talk and write a page of the book went out the window!